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Rauner To Restore Almost $26 Million In Grant Cuts

By Margaret Paulson in News on May 1, 2015 4:35PM

In a bit of good state budget news— something hard to come by— Gov. Bruce Rauner announced yesterday that he is able to restore around $26 million in grants serving Illinois’ neediest populations. The announcement came after revenue forecasts showed about $300 - $500 million more than previously anticipated coming into state coffers from personal income taxes, likely due to capital gains and dividends.

However, lest anyone think we’ve reached the end of the film and the "Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day,” keep in mind that the $26 million is being restored to programs Gov. Rauner quietly cut on Good Friday. And unlike the $300 million in cuts slated to take place next fiscal year, leaving programs time to notify staff and make adjustments, the $26 million were spending freezes— they took place immediately over Easter weekend, surprising some two dozen programs and causing them to layoff workers immediately. Some were even forced to shutter, stranding the people who rely upon them.

After the surprise Easter weekend grant freezes were announced and outrage ensued, House Speaker Michael Madigan formed a panel to assess Gov. Rauner’s decisions. It’s unclear whether his hearing had an effect on Rauner’s most recent decision.

The $26 million will be restored to Autism treatment programs and a program that funds burials for the poor, among others, and they should expect funding within the next month, according to Rauner aides.

Previously, Rauner and legislators agreed on a budget deal that involved cutting $300 million from transit, social services and other programs, including the MAP grants for low-income college students, domestic violence shelters and research on sickle cell anemia, as well as a $1.3 billion sweep of special funds. Rauner’s 2016 budget involves no borrowing or new taxes, though he has suggested a willingness to impose new taxes if lawmakers agree to curb union powers— a group he’s set on destroying.

But as one of the states with the lowest credit rating, Illinois has an uphill battle. Not only did Rauner inherit a $1.6 billion shortfall from former Gov. Pat Quinn but the state has about $6 billion in unpaid bills.

It’s clear that Rauner will use the possibility of new tax revenue as leverage as lawmakers convene to finalize the FY 2016 budget ahead of the May 31 deadline. Thankfully, no new cuts are projected in the current budget year due to the recent windfall.